We took our yearly pass on the Oscars tonight. No doubt somebody cared about this annual celebration of Hollywood narcissism and tastelessness, but it wasn't us.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
American high schools are obsolete says Bill Gates, but this is really not news. That schools aren't doing the job we'd like has been common knowledge for decades. The question is why, and what can we do to fix them:
Unfortunately, if the question is why schools are broken and what can we do to fix them, then the governors' summit was like a meeting of the band on board the Titanic to discuss which songs to play as the ship sinks into the sea. The problems which beset high schools are not problems either high schools or state governments are equipped to solve. Student learning is a function of student attitude which in turn is shaped by the culture in which students live. We can redesign and restructure schools to our heart's content, just as an aquarium staff can create a beautiful coral reef for their tropical fish, but if the water the fish swim in is toxic, they will not thrive.
Collapsing family structures, a depauperate entertainment culture, both affluence and poverty, an inability on the part of schools to set and enforce high standards of discipline, a legal system eager to haul an administrator or teacher into court at the slightest provocation, and a society which views education as the least important task that schools perform, all poison the cultural water in which our children swim and make it exceedingly difficult for schools to do their job.
Until we change the water, all the expressions of concern, all the tough tests and challenging courses the schools can muster, all the changes Bill Gates and others envision, are just so many fingers in the dike. The problem is not with our schools, it is with our culture, and any reform efforts which fail to recognize this fact will simply be a waste of time and money.